Today is the 100th birth anniversary of the late Venerable Dr. Kirinde Sri Dhammananda Nāyaka Mahā Thero (1918 – 2006), Sanghanāyaka Thera of Malaysia and Singapore, and Spiritual Adviser to Nalanda Buddhist Society. Nalandians humbly pay tribute to his immeasurable contributions to the development of Malaysian Buddhism, and his invaluable teachings for our understanding and appreciation of Buddha-Dhamma.
Ven. K. Sri Dhammananda was born on 18 March 1918 to the family of K. G. Gamage in the village of Kirinde, Matara in southern Sri Lanka. He was ordained as a novice monk at age twelve, and at age twenty-two, he received the higher ordination and became a ‘bhikkhu’.
Between 1935 to 1938, Ven. Dhammananda studied at the Sri Dhammārama Pirivena in Ratnamala, and at the Vidyawardana Buddhist Institute in Colombo. After seven years of study at the Vidyalankara Pirivena in Kelaniya, he graduated with a Diploma in Linguistics, Philosophy, Pāḷi, Sanskrit and Sinhalese. Four years later, he graduated with a master’s degree in Indian Philosophy from the Benares Hindu University in India.
In 1951, Ven. Dhammananda was selected for the mission to propagate the Buddha-Dhamma in Malaya, accepting an invitation by the Sasana Abhiwurdhi Wardhana Society of Kuala Lumpur for an erudite monk to serve here. Upon his arrival in early 1952, Ven. Dhammananda stayed for a few days at the Mahindārama Temple in Penang. He then took up residence at the Brickfields Buddhist Temple (now named the Buddhist Māha Vihāra) in Kuala Lumpur, which became the hub of his missionary activities for the next five decades.
Working from this base, Ven. Dhammananda energetically set about bringing authentic Buddhist teachings to Malaysians. A prolific speaker, Ven. Dhammananda travelled regularly and extensively to deliver talks on Buddhism throughout the country. Realising that the future of Malaysian Buddhism depended on the young and educated, he placed special emphasis on engaging with students from colleges and universities, encouraging them to establish Buddhist societies in their institutions.
Another huge contribution by Ven. Dhammananda from which we are still benefiting today was his instrumental role in the establishment of many Theravāda Buddhist societies all over the country. In addition, Ven. Dhammananda’s numerous publications made Buddhism simple and clear for many people to appreciate, with his practical and rational explanations for the human condition, his books were widely read by Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.
Ven. Dhammananda’s missionary efforts were not restricted to Malaysia. His down-to-earth teachings were acknowledged internationally, with many invitations for him to speak in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Taiwan and Japan, as well as in non-Buddhist countries such as Australia, Britain and the United States of America.
The late Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda remains a great role model for all Buddhists, monastic and lay, today. He was respected for his vast knowledge and erudition, and loved for his joviality. He was warmly referred to by many as ‘Chief’, not so much because of his title as Malaysia’s ‘Sanghanāyaka’, but because of his affable character and towering personality.
Today, the legacy of Ven. Dhammananda lives on in the well-practised followers he trained and educated with wisdom and compassion. Nalanda Buddhist Society members are forever indebted for his spiritual guidance, support and encouragement during our formative years. Whatever merits we accrue from our wholesome deeds, we dedicate them to our late Spiritual Adviser and wonderful teacher – Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda!
Dullabho purisājañño na so sabbattha jāyati
Tattha so jāyati dhīro tam kulam sukhamedhati
Hard to find is a man of great wisdom; such a man is not born everywhere.
Where such a person is born, that family thrives happilly.